Daniel van Tonder. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/Sunshine Tour/Carl Fourie
Daniel van Tonder. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/Sunshine Tour/Carl Fourie

Some of his fellow Sunshine Tour professionals refer to him as the “Bryson DeChambeau” of their Tour, and Daniel van Tonder’s unique approach to his career is certainly paying off as he heads for this week’s Vodacom Championship Reloaded at Huddle Park Golf Club.  

The tournament is the grand finale of the Sunshine Tour’s ground-breaking Rise-Up Series, which marked the official resumption of professional golf since the suspension of its activities in March because of Covid-19.

Van Tonder certainly used his time in lockdown to reload his own career. When this 54-hole tournament tees off on Wednesday, he will begin his quest for a third victory on the five-tournament series.

After wins in the African Bank Championship and the Unlocked, Van Tonder’s own approach to his career is clearly succeeding.

“I’ve always been happy to do my own thing,” said Van Tonder, whose swing has long been a talking point among his fellow professionals. Not only is it powerful, but he also elicits a unique grunt when he strikes the ball. And then during lockdown he discovered intermittent fasting, which he says has been another major key to his success on the fairways.

Jaco Ahlers believes it is Van Tonder’s ownership of his approach to the game that makes him the successful golfer he is.

“His swing is his own, but he repeats it so well and that’s what you need. I think just overall he’s in a good space and is very comfortable with himself and his game at the moment.”

Darren Fichardt is another former Rise-Up Series winner who is in the Reloaded field. The winner of the first tournament — the Betway Championship — is well placed to relate to the way Van Tonder takes his approach to the game and does not follow those around him.

Fichardt has carved out one of the most successful careers on the Sunshine Tour with an unorthodox swing and which many in the game advised him would never stand up to the rigours of professional golf.

“My swing is not textbook, so I had a lot of people advising me against pro golf when I started out. As I got better the critics started saying things like: ‘How do you plan on making a living out of golf with a swing like that?’ But luckily I didn’t listen too much. Fortunately I have a little bit of the water off a duck’s back attitude.”

The final tournament also marks the culmination of the Betway Birdie Challenge on the Series. Ahlers leads the Challenge going into this week’s tournament. Ahlers tops the standings with 57 birdies, with Fichardt and Van Tonder in a group of players chasing him on 55 birdies.

The leading birdie maker at the end of the Series will win R25,000, followed by R15,000 for second place and R10,000 for third.

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